Hammerfall Threshold

If power metal bands were hockey teams, HammerFall would be the late 1970s Montreal Canadiens. Yes, consistent brilliance is the hallmark of this Swedish quintet. That goes right back to HammerFall’s 1997 debut, Glory to the Brave, which reawakened Europe’s hunger for the dragon-fired imagery of Dio and the relentless six-string attack of Judas Priest. Five albums later, rhythm guitarist and principal songwriter Oscar Dronjak and lyricist/singer Joacim Cans still have what it takes to forge a metal masterpiece. Threshold is replete with gems, from the swinging, soaring cadences of "The Fire Burns Forever” (originally written for the 2006 European Athletics Championships in the band’s native Gothenburg) to the pure party vibe of "Howlin’ With the ‘Pac.” The clean, powerful vocals of Cans are more nuanced than ever: witness his Geoff Tate-like emotion on the mid-tempo anthem "Dark Wings, Dark Words.” Although lead axe-man Stefan Elmgren’s "Reign of the Hammer” instrumental isn’t quite as evocative as "In Memoriam” from 2002’s Crimson Thunder, he shines on the galloping rocker "Genocide,” which exudes determined heroism. Similar to a Guy Lafleur breakaway goal or a Ken Dryden pad save, you may foresee what’s coming here, but you can’t help admiring it. (Nuclear Blast)